Resolving tax appeals: CRA practice limits face-to-face meetings

In this Tax Blog post, Gabe Hayos, vice-president, Taxation, for CPA Canada, asks why Canada Revenue Agency’s appeals officers don’t accept face-to-face meetings to resolve disputes more often.

Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) appeals officers are supposed to resolve tax disputes impartially, objectively and expediently. Many tax practitioners believe that in some cases resolving tax disputes can be achieved most efficiently in-person, and they have raised concerns about how frequently appeals officers turn down their request for a face-to-face meeting.

Why don’t appeals officers accept these meeting requests more often? The Appeals Branch has advised that it has constrained resources. Limiting face-to-face meetings is intended to help the branch process its current backlog of appeals. And we’re told that appeals officers communicate via phone, written correspondence and sometimes face-to-face, depending on the information that needs to be communicated.

Ultimately, all appeals decisions are documented in writing. Well-written submissions are the most important basis of appeals decisions. The Appeals Branch general view is that meetings that are requested before a written submission are not an efficient use of an appeals officer’s time, and so they are frequently denied.

Practitioners have expressed the view that an initial face-to-face meeting is often the only way that they can be assured that the appeals officer understands the reason for the taxpayer’s filing position. In the appropriate circumstance, meeting face-to-face can be the most efficient way to settle an appeal.

The Appeals Branch has indicated that appeals officers would agree to meet face-to-face if:

  • a file is complex or the appeal is based on a provision that permits a range of technically correct applications
  • the appeals officer is responding to a complaint on the conduct of CRA officials on the file
  • the file is headed to tax court and the practitioner insists on a meeting
  • the appeals officer believes that the credibility of the taxpayer is an issue and wants to assess that credibility in person

To help CRA identify concerns of taxpayers and tax practitioners with the appeals process, and to assist in improving it, the Canadian Bar Association and CPA Canada have formed an advisory committee of legal and accounting professionals to consult with Appeals Branch senior officials. We’d appreciate your input.

Join in the conversation

Do you agree with the circumstances that the Appeals Branch has identified for face-to-face meetings? Are there other circumstances where in-person meetings may be beneficial? What steps could the Appeals Branch take to streamline and improve the appeals process?

Post a comment below.

CPA Canada's Tax Blog is designed to create an exchange of ideas on tax policy and practice developments and issues and their impact on Canadian accountants who practise tax. Comments received can provide helpful input to the public interest advocacy positions developed by the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada.

About the Author

Gabe Hayos, FCPA, FCA, ICD.D

Vice-president, Taxation, CPA Canada